June 21, 2006

A Biblical Critique of Debbie Maken's Book "Getting Serious about Getting Married" (part 3)

PART III: Chapter 2 - "What the Bible Says About Being Single" (So What Kind of Eunuch Are You, Dude?)

What does the Bible say about single people? In the second chapter of Getting Serious about Getting Married, Debbie Maken attempts to answer this question. However, as in Chapter One, we find that her exegesis misses the mark.

Jesus and Matthew 19:11-12

A key text Mrs. Maken cites for her claim that most people must get married is Matthew 19:11-12. Here, we have Jesus discussing a group of people who should not marry. Are we to assume that the people Jesus mentions are an exclusive class who alone have the right to be single? Is everyone else nonexempt from marriage? Debbie Maken apparently thinks so. Speaking of Matthew 19:11-12 and 1 Corinthians 7, she says, "People who don't meet the singleness requirements are under the general rule that God established in Genesis" (p. 29).

However, let's look closely at Matthew 19:11-12. Jesus did not say, "Not everyone can be single except for a select group." He said, "All cannot receive this saying, but only those to whom it was given ..." (v. 11, NKJV). What was the "saying" that not everyone could receive? The "saying" in question was the disciples statement in v. 10: "If such is the case of man with his wife, it is better not to marry" (NKJV). A more literal translation would be: "It is not good to marry."

There is an issue here that Mrs. Maken has overlooked (although to be fair to her, other commentators have probably overlooked it as well). If Jesus negates the statement that "it is not good to marry" with only a few exceptions in mind, are we to assume that everyone else is required to marry? The answer is No. Let us not commit the logical fallacy of posing a False Dilemma. Readers should take note: To deny that marriage is "not good" is not to deny that singleness is good. If neither marriage or singleness were good, then God would not recommend either state for anyone. As it is, the Bible affirms that both marriage and singleness, in principal, are good (1 Corinthians 7:38).

The people Jesus addresses in Matthew 19:12 are people for which the saying "it is not good to marry" holds true in a way that it does not hold true for others. They are eunuchs either in the literal sense or the figurative sense. Indeed, very few single people fall into the category considered here. For many other people, it is good to be either single or married. Granted, there are those of whom it can be said, "It is not good to be single." I refer, of course, to people who are already married, for matrimony definitely comes with obligations (1 Corinthians 7:2-7). But conceding this is not akin to embracing the kind of far-reaching claims that Mrs. Maken makes about the need to get married.

So, What Kind of Eunuch Am I, Mrs. Maken?

Having established that Jesus did not place restrictions on singleness, per se, in Matthew 19:11-12, let us therefore consider Mrs. Maken's statement on page 32:
"I once went on a date with a thirty-seven-year-old bachelor. Curious about why he was still single at that age, I asked him, 'So what kind of "eunuch" are you?' I know it's not your typical conversation starter on a first date, but I wasn't going to waste my time dating someone who wasn't looking for marriage ...

"... We talked about singleness according to the Bible--that if he was legitimately single, he'd either been called to be single for full-time kingdom work that made family life impossible, as it was with Paul and Jeremiah, or he must have a medical file somewhere that proved he was exempt from marriage because he was unable to perform its duties. If either of those two things were true, he had no business dating me or anyone else."
Mrs. Maken's conduct in this account is regrettable. Her confrontational demeanor was needless, as it was clearly based on a misunderstanding of what Matthew 19:11-12 teaches. All the same, I want to make an additional point about Mrs. Maken's exegesis and Matthew 19:11-12. The passage mentions three types of "eunuchs":
"For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother's womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake ..." (v. 12, NKJV)
The first two categories of "eunuchs" refer, of course, to people who are are biologically ill-suited to have conjugal relations. The third category refers to those who are unmarried because of their service to God. It is this last category that merits our attention.

Mrs. Maken claims those who are "eunuchs .. for the kingdom of heaven's sake" are those who have "received a clear direction from God to be single" (p. 32). However, a careful look at Matthew 19:12 reveals something rather interesting. It says the third category of eunuchs "have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake." In other words, the singles in question exercised choice about there status.

This exercise of free will flies squarely of the face of any assertion that people have to be "called to singleness" by God. It also indicates that Christians do not need a supernatural "gift" of diminished sexual desire in order to remain pure (although on p. 34, Mrs. Maken assumes a priori that single people who take on exceptional ministries must have such an endowment). Finally, one should note that the choice of becoming a figurative eunuch undercuts any assertion that people are to "be fruitful and multiply". For if God indeed still commanded people to have children, then there would clear directives on who could remain single and thereby exempt themselves from the command. Mrs. Maken would like us to believe there are clear directives, but we see that Matthew 19:12 shows otherwise. In essence, it is ironic that the very passage Mrs. Maken uses to support her position actually devastates it.

Singles in the Bible

On pages 34 to 36, Mrs. Maken calls attention to some figures in the Bible that were unmarried. She supposes that these individuals support her assertion that people must have a special calling from God in order to be single. What interests me, however, is her mention of the Apostle Paul and Barnabas. I agree with Mrs. Maken that their missionary work would have made married life a difficult proposition. Yet, notice what Paul claims about Barnabas and himself in 1 Corinthians 9:5: "Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?" (NKJV). Apparently, Paul thought that he had the same right as any other red-blooded male Christian had. He must have not been familiar with the theology of some modern commentators who assume the he was mysteriously endowed with a low sex drive or that the Lord gave him no choice in the matter of marriage.

A "Present Distress" over 1 Corinthians 7

I suppose if there is one passage that causes no small amount of consternation for those who take Debbie Maken's position on marriage, it is 1 Corinthians, chapter 7. In this passage, the Bible commendation of the single lifestyle cannot be any clearer. How then do those who demand most people get married handle this passage? They may do like Mrs. Maken does: explain it away by assuming it only applies to the first century. Mrs. Maken writes:
"Paul had very different advice for different categories of singles. He began with widows and widowers (v. 8), moved on to those who were married but on the brink of separation or divorce (vv. 10, 15), and then addressed never-married singles (v. 25: 'now concerning virgins' [literal translation]). To this last subset, Paul said that 'in view of the present distress,' those who wished to temporarily delay marriage could do so. What was this 'present distress?' Historians uniformly believe that Paul was referencing famine and persecution. In light of such events, marriage and family--especially young children--would only add to the stress. It was only because of the highly unusual circumstances surrounding the Greek countryside that Paul gives this advice to this one group of Christians ..."

"... When Paul gave his answer to the question, he allowed that difficulties such as famine and persecution are justifications for postponing marriage, but he did not lend any support to ascetics looking for excuses to shun marriage ... Paul walked a fine line, but he did not say that singleness and marriage are equal options in the eyes of the Lord."
(pp. 37-38)
Mrs. Maken's approach to 1 Corinthians 7 is not new to me, as I have run across other writers who take the same position. Needless to say, I am not convinced by the line of reasoning employed by Mrs. Maken and others. It seems that Mr. Maken and, by extension, the commentators she follows read too much into the phrase "present distress."

Mrs. Maken may claim that "historians uniformly believe" that Paul was addressing famine and persecution in Corinth, but well-respected Biblical scholars do not "uniformly believe" this. Other commentators, such as C. K. Barrett and Richard Oster, believe the "present distress" points to a more generalized tribulation that Christians endure. If we were to concede a temporal understanding of the phrase "present distress," we are still left with the task of explaining Paul's words in vv. 29-31, which end with the statement: "For the form of this world is passing away" (NKJV). Paul's focus here is clearly eschatological. Even Simon Kistemaker, a commentator Mrs. Maken selectively cites in support of her position, states:
"Whether we are married, cast into sorrow, given to joy, or acquire possessions, Christians should not become absorbed by them. They should see the transient nature of these things and know that after having passed through this earthly vale, believers will enter eternity. In this life, then, they ought to prepare themselves for the life after death." (Simon Kistemaker, New Testament Commentary: 1 Corinthians (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1993), 244.) (emphasis mine)
Perhaps Mrs. Maken's fans should examine their own personal feelings in light of the above statement. At any rate, if Paul's advice to single people in 1 Corinthians 7 stopped at verse 28, I could perhaps grant something to those of Mrs. Maken's persuasion, but vv. 29-31 exhibit a shift in subject matter, as do vv. 32-38.

The Married vs. the "Eunuchs"

When we come to 1 Corinthians 7:32, we see Paul commencing a general discussion of the differences between married people and single people. Consider the following language of v. 34:
"There is a difference between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be hold both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world--how she may please her husband." (NKJV)
Are we to believe this verse is only talking about times of exceptional distress? Paul's distinction is between the "unmarried" and "married," not between those who are persecuted and those who are not persecuted. Moreover, Paul says nothing about being anxious for the necessities of life here. Instead, we simply have a statement about "pleasing" one's spouse. The word "pleasing" does not connote times of dire distress, even in the original language of the text. Paul then goes on to say:
"And this I say for your own profit, not that I may put a leash on you, but for what is proper, and that you may serve the Lord without distraction" (v. 35, NKJV).
Paul's application cannot be more clear: he is not proposing a set of statutes and case law for matrimony. He advice indicates that there is choice in the matter and that he simply desires that the Corinthians be able to "serve the Lord without distraction." If there is any doubt about whether or not Paul leaves the matter of marriage and singleness up to the Christians he addresses, consider the language of vv. 37-38:
"But if any man thinks he is behaving improperly toward his virgin, if she is past the flower of youth, and thus it must be, let him do what he wishes. He does not sin; let them marry. Nevertheless he who stands steadfast in his heart, having no necessity, but has power over his own will, and has so determined in his own heart that he will keep his virgin, does well. So then, he who gives her in marriage does well, but he who does not give her in marriage does better." (NKJV) (emphasis mine)
I find it puzzling how Mrs. Maken and others could fail to acknowledge the very clear language of the above passage. Here, Paul indicates that the decision to marry is a matter of one's "own heart" and "own will." There is simply no hint of the matter of matrimony being predetermined by divine fiat. In short, God leaves the choice up to us, and by extension, the notion that we are commanded to "be fruitful and multiply" is again swept away in the wake of this passage.

Distresses That Really Are "Present"

Let the reader assume for the sake of argument that all of 1 Corinthians 7:25-40 pertained to an exceptional circumstance, namely persecution or famine. Was the situation that the Corinthians faced so unique and unparalleled in whole history of Christendom that they merited a special exemption from marriage? How dire did life's circumstances have to be before one could refuse matrimony? Mrs. Maken's suppositions to the contrary, the Bible does not give us any details. The text merely says that Paul wanted the Corinthians "to be without care." We cannot make God to be a respecter of persons (Acts 10:34). At the very least, we have to allow for a present-day application of 1 Corinthians 7:25-40, whether it is wholly couched in terms of a "distress" or not. Today's Christians, like the Corinthians, should be able to forego marriage in order "to be without care." Maybe we are not faced with famine and persecution in today's society, but those who want to start families today face many antagonistic forces in the legal, economic, and social realms.

The Battle of the Commentaries

We have already noted that one commentary Mrs. Maken cites (viz., by Simon Kistemaker) does not agree with her overall position on 1 Corinthians 7:25-40. Another work Mrs. Maken uses also does a disservice to the theology of those who share her beliefs. I refer, in particular, to Gordon Fee's commentary on 1 Corinthians. Contrary to what many believe about 1 Corinthians 7:1-9, Fee does not take this passage as an encouragement for single people to marry. He carefully considers the original Greek language of the text and comes to two striking, but correct, conclusions. The first is that 1 Corinthians 7:1-6 is addressed to Christians who are already married; the Apostle's exhortation is for husbands and wives to continue to have intimate relations with each other "in order to avoid fornication." The second conclusion worth noting is that 1 Corinthians 7:9 does not hold forth marriage as a solution for youthful desires, per se. The English translation "cannot contain" is inaccurate. The people under consideration are those who will not practice self-control and thereby are already caught up in the sin of fornication. Hence, the Apostle Paul indicates that marriage is better than being involved in sin, but he does not necessarily indicate it is better than being single (Gordon Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, NICNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987), 278-290).

Granted, I will admit that I do not entirely agree with Fee's conclusions on 1 Corinthians, chapter 7. For instance, Fee, like Debbie Maken, assumes that the gift of which Paul speaks in v. 7 is some exceptional resistance to sexual desire (Ibid., 284). I have already noted that such a conclusion is strained in light of Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians 9:5. For all one may know, Paul could be referring to the undivided devotion he had to the Lord as a single man (7:32, 35). Such a "gift" of undivided devotion would certainly fit the context of the preceding statements in vv. 5-6. Having said this, I agree with Fee when he states:
"The irony of our present situation is that Paul insisted that his own preference, including his reasons for it, were not to be taken as a noose around anyone's neck. Yet we have allowed that very thing to happen. Roman Catholicism has insisted on celibacy for its clergy even though not all are gifted to be so; on the other hand, many Protestant groups will not ordain the single because marriage is the norm, and the single are not quite trusted. The answer again lies in our becoming eschatological people who live in the present with such a clear vision of our certain future that we are free from such anxiety, and therefore also free from placing such strictures on others as well as on ourselves." (Ibid., 348-349) (emphasis mine)
I cannot but wonder if Mrs. Maken actually read this portion of Fee's book. All in all, whether it be Bible passages or commentaries, I again note with irony how the very sources Mrs. Maken uses to support her position actually devastate it.

Debbie Maken's Book - The Rest of Chapter Two

When one moves the beyond the faulty exegesis of Mrs. Maken's book on pages 29-40, there is no much left to consider in Chapter Two. What is left is a series of assertions which are patently baseless. For instance, with respect to the so-called "biblical criteria for lifelong singleness," she tells us the "Bible requires voluntarily and permanently renouncing marriage and all that goes with it" (p. 41); this, of course, utterly contradicts the very "right" that Apostle Paul claimed for himself in 1 Corinthians 9:5.

Finally, Mrs. Maken closes the chapter with some comments about single men that I find, as a man, to be quite condescending. Such are unfortunately a foretaste of what we will encounter later in the book. Suffice it to say, by the end of Chapter Two, Debbie Maken's book is still-born. Devoid of any meaningful and sound exegesis of the Bible, the rest of Mrs. Maken's volume is little more than conglomeration of historical trivia, colorful suppositions, and diatribe. I shall, nonetheless, attempt to address the rest of Mrs. Maken's book in upcoming installments of my critique.

33 Comments:

Blogger Josh Justice said...

Thanks for your great exegesis in this article. I'm very excited to find support for celibacy online. I made a decision to renounce marriage last October, and have never had more joy in my walk with God.

I'm looking forward to keeping in touch with this blog for more support. I've actually just started a celibacy blog of my own - I'm hoping it will have a mix of the Biblical, practical, and references to other resources. Feel free to check it out!

--josh

6/23/06, 8:41 AM  
Blogger Anakin Niceguy said...

Josh,

I appreciate your kind words. I am glad that I am not the only one who feels this way. It makes me feel good that in the last couple of days, bloggers and one writer at Christianity Today have come out against the current dogmatism floating around about marriage. It is as if a ram has been provided in the thicket for me.

I have not renounced marriage, per se, but last year, my resolve became solidified -- a man's happiness, self-esteem, worth, and indeed his manhood is not contingent on being romantically successful (e.g. marriage). It is a powerful and exhilarating epiphany to internalize.

What joy it is to unplug from cultural expectations and avoid blindly following the traditions of human wisdom. God's revealed wisdom and "perfect law of liberty" is a sufficient yoke, to which any other spiritual requirements or tests of faith need not be added (2 Timothy 3:16).

Thanks for letting me know about your blog, by the way. It looks like it will be informative.

6/23/06, 3:01 PM  
Blogger Josh Justice said...

Isn't it amazing how God ordains the timing of things like this? It's incredibly encouraging!

Do you have a link for that Christianity Today article? Love to give it a look.

Look forward to blogging with you!

6/23/06, 3:22 PM  
Blogger Anakin Niceguy said...

Hi Josh,

You can find it here.

6/23/06, 5:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

anakin niceguy,

First of all great blog, I left a comment on part 2 of you're critique of Maken's book but i'm not sure if you read the comments of old blog entries. Anyway here is a site I think you will enjoy...

http://www.faithandsociety.typepad.com/

Anakin MANY men feel as you do there are quite a few blogs/sites that deal with this issue, I myself have been pressured into marriage many times, when I decline the shamming language starts 'you hate woman' 'be a real man' 'are you gay' etc

6/23/06, 7:01 PM  
Blogger Anakin Niceguy said...

Anonymous,

Yes, it is unfortunate when men are subjected to less than civil treatment for a lifestyle decision that is Biblically acceptable.

6/23/06, 10:15 PM  
Blogger Gordon Hackman said...

Thanks for this particular entry. They've all been good, but this is the best by far, as it gets to the heart of Maken's position and how absolutely vapid it really is. I read the chapter on scripture from the book, as I knew that this would be where it all stood or fell and even on my initial reading I felt that her position was weak. I think even a cursory reading of 1 Cor 7 reveals that it doesn't say (or not say) what she wants it to. Even if one concedes her arguments about 1 Cor 7:7 and 7:26, it still doesn't deal with 7:8-9 or 32-35, which seem to stand as complete thoughts of their own. The same goes for her reading of Matt 19, which is even weaker. When I read it, I thought, "How does she get this out of it?"

I scares me when I read people saying how good her book is in its treatment of scripture. I think it's a great example of a problem that tends to plague us evangelicals. We make a big deal out of scripture as the final authority, but we don't really want to make the effort required to interact and wrestle with the text. I think it would have been less of a problem for her if she had simply had the humility to advance her position as one possible way of interpreting scripture, and told her readers to take it or leave it for what it's worth. Unfortunately, a heavy-handed, dogmatic, this is the way it is and there is no room for disagreement attitude seems to prevail among many conservative religionists.

I wonder, too, if she had taken a more modest tone, if the book would have made the splash it has. It seems that so many evangelicals want someone to tell them that this is the right answer and that therefore, they are excused from thinking about it.

Peace,
Gordon

6/24/06, 7:00 PM  
Blogger Anakin Niceguy said...

Gordon,

I think what you said is worth noting. How will believers engage unbelievers if they don't even engage the Word of God? I have to do a "road to Damascus" detour on a few things in my walk of faith. If we are looking for someone else to do our thinking for us, then we may close the very doors that God wants us to walk through.

6/25/06, 6:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, I reviewed Debbie Maken's book for another website. I do have some of the same issues that you do regarding the necessity of marriage for all except those in some sort of ministry that will make it impossible. Plus, she is clearly wrong in assigning all blame to men, as most Christian single women 30+ have rejected a number of suitors.

I would take some exception with your exegesis, however, and assert that yes, the ability to handle cela

In Math. 19, Jesus says only "To those it has been given" can accept life without marriage
.No choice in the matter. The choice to "Make yourself" a eunech, then, must be understood that there are some who definitely should not make this choice.

Also, In 1 Cor. 7:37 it clearly says that those who are under no compulsion and have control over their will can make that choice. Those who don't shouldn't.

Unfortunately, I must agree with Mrs. Maken that the number that do is very, very small. It isn't up to the church to tell you if you do or don't - that's between you and God. But so much singleness teaching has gone the other way, saying that this blissful singleness where abstinence is not a pressing hardship is available to all - and that's wrong, too. I've heard it said in so many words that if you struggle with your sexuality, you just need to join a small group, be held accountable, control your thought thought life and everything will be fine, because sexuality comes from your flesh, not your physiology. One wonders why Pual didn't proscribe it.

See, in my 20s I did think "yeah, it's great to be free from cultural expectations." But as my 30s began, I begun to see that I was missing so much. As you see your friends' kids growing up, you see the truth that "They are a blessing from the Lord." I also realized that my opportunities to mature as a person were getting thin. My life required so little sacrifice, and I found myself really wanting to give. I couldn't just pile on ministries to do to fulfill this, because if I committed to too much, they'd conflict with each other. Even there, these require so much giving without anyone giving to you, so you get burnt out after a while. Sure, marriage would be hard and would involve trouble - but the potential rewards now seem so worth it. As you get older, taking on responsibility rather than running away with it becomes more appealing.

For me I've found it to be a really less abundant and less blessed life, and she convinced me that it was ok for me to make looking for it a top priority, even to move to another city when I couldn't find it where I was at.

I must also agree with her that church groups and roomates will not fulfill the needs that most people feel for companionship. Been there, deone that, time to move on. Or affection. Physical touch is one of my love languages, and not much is really appropriate or available apart from a romantic relationship.

If you are fulfilled in your life without a spouse, I'd be the first to tell Maken to let you be. But the great thing about her book IMO is that it dares to say that we don't have to be in bondage to the "counter-culture" expecation to sit down, shut up, take your singleness on the chin and be happy.

7/8/06, 12:30 PM  
Blogger Anakin Niceguy said...

Anonymous,

You said:



In Math. 19, Jesus says only "To those it has been given" can accept life without marriage
.No choice in the matter. The choice to "Make yourself" a eunech, then, must be understood that there are some who definitely should not make this choice.



I am not sure I follow your argumentation here. You seem to be merely restating Debbie Maken's position on Matthew 19, which I have already answered.



Also, In 1 Cor. 7:37 it clearly says that those who are under no compulsion and have control over their will can make that choice. Those who don't shouldn't.



Paul still describes a man who marries as doing "what he wants" (v. 36).



Unfortunately, I must agree with Mrs. Maken that the number that do is very, very small. It isn't up to the church to tell you if you do or don't - that's between you and God. But so much singleness teaching has gone the other way, saying that this blissful singleness where abstinence is not a pressing hardship is available to all - and that's wrong, too. I've heard it said in so many words that if you struggle with your sexuality, you just need to join a small group, be held accountable, control your thought thought life and everything will be fine, because sexuality comes from your flesh, not your physiology. One wonders why Pual didn't proscribe it.



The church cannot have it both ways: it can't say to teenagers, "Control yourself until you get married" and then turn around and say to older singles, "You need to get married because you can't control yourself." Either we have the power of self-control or we don't.

7/8/06, 7:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anakin,

You said,

">I am not sure I follow your argumentation here. You seem to be merely restating Debbie Maken's position on Matthew 19, which I have already answered."

No, you didn't. You did not address the idea that the ability (the CAN) to accept the saying that it is good is something that is GIVEN, not chosen, and that some people CAN'T. You said that it was a false delimma to say that marriage is good and singleness is bad, which is true as long as we're talking on a collective basis. But individuals need to examine themselves. (See below for more on the free will idea.)

Where your argument gets lost is when you pull this bald assertion out of thin air:

"Indeed, very few single people fall into the category considered here. For many other people, it is good to be either single or married."

If you haven't been GIVEN the temperment to accept it, you CAN'T. If CAN accept it, you SHOULD. You cannot square your statement with such words.

Again,

"For many other people, it is good to be either single or married. Paul still describes a man who marries as doing 'what he wants'
(v. 36)."

You're missing the point. We are capable of making the choice, but we CANNOT choose what we WANT or WISH to do. There is a BIG difference. I can clean up my house, but I can't make myself WANT to do it. The problem in Christian circles is that so many people are being told to accept a condition which they DON'T WANT. This is destructive and unbiblical. If you WANT to get married, then get married. If you CAN'T accept the "it's good not to marry" idea, then DON'T.

"The church cannot have it both ways: it can't say to teenagers, 'Control yourself until you get married' and then turn around and say to older singles, "You need to get married because you can't control yourself." Either we have the power of self-control or we don't."

So you're saying that the Bible contradicts itself, then. (Your exegisis of 1 Cor. 7 misses the mark as well.

"I have already noted that such a conclusion is strained in light of Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians 9:5."

Not at all. Paul's continence with celebacy has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that the laws of church governance allow him to take a wife. Men had no authority to tell him that he couldn't take a wife, because they didn't have access to his heart - but he knew that between Him and God it would be better if he didn't.

"For all one may know, Paul could be referring to the undivided devotion he had to the Lord as a single man (7:32, 35). Such a "gift" of undivided devotion would certainly fit the context of the preceding statements in vv. 5-6."

Possibly, but this undivded devotion MUST include continence in sexuality, as the passages around it are rife with reference to it. It might (and I think probably does) go beyond it, but if it doesn't include it, the constant references to sexual relations are quite superflouous.

I don't know some Christians are so desperate to disbelieve this passage actually says what it says, but I suspect it's because our view of sexuality is still too Victorian rather than Biblical.

You also presented a false delimma. It's one thing to control for a time. But Mrs. Maken is correct in saying that there are limits to human endurance. I can go without food for a day without too much hardship. A week? Well, that's really bad. It's one thing to control yourself when you have a good reason to believe that the end is 5-10 years down the road. But in my life, I've felt the cumulative strain build, especially as you mature and you become aware of the emotional aspects of your sexuality. When you're 16, sure, it seems just physical. That longing creates even more strain that just builds as time goes on. Maybe you can't relate to that. If so, it's very probably good for you to stay single. It isn't good for me. And you shouldn't tell others that it's good for them IF THEIR HEARTS TELL THEM OTHERWISE.

7/9/06, 12:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anakin,

I realized it gets worse.

"Fee does not take this passage as an encouragement for single people to marry. He carefully considers the original Greek language of the text and comes to two striking, but correct, conclusions. The first is that 1 Corinthians 7:1-6 is addressed to Christians who are already married; the Apostle's exhortation is for husbands and wives to continue to have intimate relations with each other "in order to avoid fornication." The second conclusion worth noting is that 1 Corinthians 7:9 does not hold forth marriage as a solution for youthful desires, per se. The 'English translation 'cannot contain' is inaccurate. The people under consideration are those who will not practice self-control and thereby are already caught up in the sin of fornication. Hence, the Apostle Paul indicates that marriage is better than being involved in sin, but he does not necessarily indicate it is better than being single'"

So married people should continue having relations in order to avoid temptation. Single people who have committed fornication should get married because it's better than being in sin, but then you want people to believe that it doesn't apply to single people who haven't committed fornication but are struggling with it!! That's just plain silly. Hey, what about those who have committed mastuerbation? Well most Christians consider this to be a sin, yet a large majority of singles struggle with it, so that just puts us right back where Maken said we should be.

Also, you made the comment about teenagers and how you can't have it both ways. You still need to have it both ways under your interpretation. Following your logic, teenagers who are involved in the sin of fornication should control themselves. But then, your exegesis requires that the church tell older singles who have committed the sin of fornication that they should get married! So we just end up in a logical pretzel anyway.

"Was the situation that the Corinthians faced so unique and unparalleled in whole history of Christendom that they merited a special exemption from marriage....At the very least, we have to allow for a present-day application of 1 Corinthians 7:25-40, whether it is wholly couched in terms of a "distress" or not.....Maybe we are not faced with famine and persecution in today's society, but those who want to start families today face many antagonistic forces in the legal, economic, and social realms."

Get a historical clue, buddy. Our difficulties aren't even, even close to theirs. It's just the type of mindless comment made by a comfortable Westerner who has faced no real difficulties in his life. Just like the "Roman society was depraved, kind of like our society today" type of comments that evangelicals are fond of blurting out. The real truth is that the levels of depravity in Roman times were far, far worse.

"Granted, there are those of whom it can be said, 'It is not good to be single.' I refer, of course, to people who are already married, for matrimony definitely comes with obligations (1 Corinthians 7:2-7)."

But it's ONLY limited to people already married? It's just another begged question, just another assertion you blurt out.

Your methodology to is beg the question, and even then you have to walk a tightrope to avoid Maken's conclusions. And in doing so, you come up with a scheme so flimsy that it breaks down into absurd inconsistencies at the slightest examination. And then their's this comment:

"Devoid of any meaningful and sound exegesis of the Bible, the rest of Mrs. Maken's volume is little more than conglomeration of historical trivia, colorful suppositions, and diatribe."

Well, in light of your tone, I think I can come up with some appropriate comments.

Just because you can open and read a commentary doesn't mean you know what you're talking about. This is a serious issue, and the dialogue has no place for two-bit hacks. Let grown men and women discuss this while you go back and do your homework, junior.

7/11/06, 10:21 AM  
Blogger Anakin Niceguy said...

Anonymous,

I plan to deal with your comments soon. Unfortunately, I am tied up at the moment.

Take care.

7/11/06, 4:56 PM  
Blogger Anakin Niceguy said...

Anonymous,

I suppose you are not the same poster as the previous "anonymous" as you appear to be strongly for Maken.

Here is my reply to your comments ...




If you haven't been GIVEN the temperment to accept it, you CAN'T. If CAN accept it, you SHOULD. You cannot square your statement with such words.



I am afraid you overlooked a point I made. Again, what was under consideration? Indeed, what was GIVEN? "Temperament" as you say? No, that's not what the text says. It was a "saying". What saying? "It is NOT GOOD to be married." Can you receive that saying? That it's bad for you to get married, period? I can't. Marriage may be good for me and singleness may be good for me. It doesn't say, "Only a few have been given the temperament [your word] of singleness." Let's deal with what the text actually says.



You're missing the point. We are capable of making the choice, but we CANNOT choose what we WANT or WISH to do. There is a BIG difference. I can clean up my house, but I can't make myself WANT to do it. The problem in Christian circles is that so many people are being told to accept a condition which they DON'T WANT. This is destructive and unbiblical. If you WANT to get married, then get married.



Don't want = Cannot? I am not sure I follow your reasoning. Simply put, my position is this: if you want to get married, go ahead. If you want to stay single, go ahead. Do you want me to just say, "What you want is required and what you don't want is forbidden?" So, if I go to an ice cream shop and I wanted Heavenly Hash, but they only had Pistachio - would it be sinful for me to choose Pistachio? Was the desire I had in my heart for Heavenly Hash a divine mandate? People can live happy and fufilled lives without marriage. Otherwise, the Bible's promise to single people is false.

If a woman wants an excuse to be miserable while she is single, Debbie Maken's book will help her. "I am dissatisfied and it's not God's will that I be this way!" Meanwhile, the world marches on and she is no closer to that coveted wedding. Tell me, how does Mrs. Maken's book help those socially or physically undesirable singles whose chances for marriage are pretty much nil?



Not at all. Paul's continence with celebacy has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that the laws of church governance allow him to take a wife. Men had no authority to tell him that he couldn't take a wife, because they didn't have access to his heart - but he knew that between Him and God it would be better if he didn't.



So Paul's statement about the "right to take a wife" was a mere formality said for the benefit of men? Paul REALLY didn't have that right? And was he making a deal about sacrificing a right that really wasn't a sacrifice for him? In short, was Paul just disingenious about it all? I'm sorry but your explanation is untenable.



Possibly, but this undivded devotion MUST include continence in sexuality, as the passages around it are rife with reference to it. It might (and I think probably does) go beyond it, but if it doesn't include it, the constant references to sexual relations are quite superflouous.



The constant references to sexual relations are with respect to the questions the Corinthians had about themselves. Paul does not spend the entire chapter talking about himself, and his reference to his own condition is a side note in his discourse.



You also presented a false delimma. It's one thing to control for a time. But Mrs. Maken is correct in saying that there are limits to human endurance. I can go without food for a day without too much hardship. A week? Well, that's really bad. It's one thing to control yourself when you have a good reason to believe that the end is 5-10 years down the road. But in my life, I've felt the cumulative strain build, especially as you mature and you become aware of the emotional aspects of your sexuality. When you're 16, sure, it seems just physical.



What are you saying? That a 16 year-old male has more control than a 35 year-old male? A man's sexual prime is age 18 to 21 (the age when church leaders are telling them that they are too young to marry and that they need to take cold showers). If biology is destiny, then teenaged Christian boys need to be getting married before they graduate from high school. Debbie Maken speaks from the vantage point of a woman. I speak from the vantage point of a man. Her felt "needs" are not mine.



Maybe you can't relate to that. If so, it's very probably good for you to stay single. It isn't good for me. And you shouldn't tell others that it's good for them IF THEIR HEARTS TELL THEM OTHERWISE.



I won't tell you what's good for you in matter of opinion where God has given liberty (marriage vs. singleness). Maybe that's where you misunderstand me. You see, that's the problem I have with Mrs. Maken. I am a red-blooded male and from what I can gather from her book, she is saying that I MUST get married. There may be a benefit to me getting married, but I don't think I rebel against God if I happen to turn that benefit down ... even for the poorest of reasons. The way things are going, I suspect the next book that will come out is "Getting Serious about Eating Whole Grains" where someone will declare that eating White Bread is "unnatural" and therefore sinful.

7/11/06, 8:26 PM  
Blogger Anakin Niceguy said...

My critique of the Pro-Maken "Anonymous" continues ...



So married people should continue having relations in order to avoid temptation. Single people who have committed fornication should get married because it's better than being in sin, but then you want people to believe that it doesn't apply to single people who haven't committed fornication but are struggling with it!! That's just plain silly.



All is not equal here. Let me point out the following ...

Married people have an obligation to a spouse. That's why Paul said abstinence had to be by "mutual consent." If one is used to getting sex from the persons he lives with day in and day out and it is suddenly shut off, I suspect that is much more difficult than what a single person experiences. Do you think you would have an easier time being pure living in close proximity with a spouse that won't have sex with you? I don't.




Hey, what about those who have committed mastuerbation? Well most Christians consider this to be a sin, yet a large majority of singles struggle with it, so that just puts us right back where Maken said we should be.



The question of masturbation is moot. If you think touching yourself is a sin but there is no spouse in sight, guess what you are going to have to do (if you want to be consistent with your beliefs)? Go without sexual release. Even a fornicator has a better prospect of getting married than you would, because at least the fornicator is in a relationship with someone. If masturbation is a sin, then you have a choice about that just as you do about fornication. If you insist on sexual sin, then yes, you should get married (if it is possible). But, in the end, it's STILL your choice. Nobody forces you to sin or get married. You have more control over your members than you do over your marital status. Debbie Maken seems to suggest the opposite, and I find that utterly absurd (as if my ability to be faithful to God depended on a woman agreeing to marry me). The Bible says I am to "work out MY OWN salvation" but Mrs. Maken would place my spiritual walk in the hands of the opposite sex.



Also, you made the comment about teenagers and how you can't have it both ways. You still need to have it both ways under your interpretation. Following your logic, teenagers who are involved in the sin of fornication should control themselves. But then, your exegesis requires that the church tell older singles who have committed the sin of fornication that they should get married! So we just end up in a logical pretzel anyway.



You misunderstand me. Older singles do not HAVE to get married. However, it is BETTER for either teenagers OR older singles to get married than to commit fornication (1 Cor. 7:9). There is no pretzel logic here.



Get a historical clue, buddy. Our difficulties aren't even, even close to theirs. It's just the type of mindless comment made by a comfortable Westerner who has faced no real difficulties in his life. Just like the "Roman society was depraved, kind of like our society today" type of comments that evangelicals are fond of blurting out. The real truth is that the levels of depravity in Roman times were far, far worse.



With all due respect, I think I already conceded as much. As I have written: "Maybe we are not faced with famine and persecution in today's society ..." You have not dealt with my observation that Paul doesn't go into any appreciable detial about what he wanted the Corinthians to be spared from. And, speaking of "comfortable Westerner," I remind you there are worse hardships than going without sex.



Well, in light of your tone, I think I can come up with some appropriate comments.



No, sorry, your closing comments are NOT appropriate. My low opinion of Debbie Maken's book does not warrant your personal attacks ("Junior" "Two-bit hacks"). I have not called Mrs. Maken nor you derogatory names. My comments have been deleted on pro-Maken boards for much less (I suspect it is my offense of disagreeing with the party line). Take that as a warning. Moderate your tone if you wish to continue to enjoy the privilege of posting here.


By the way, I can't guarantee an immediate response to any follow-up remarks you may have this week as I have purposed to spend some time away from blogging.

7/11/06, 9:14 PM  
Anonymous jojo the idiot circus boy said...

Anakin,

Unfortunately, the tendency towards shrillness of rhetoric and immature name calling is not an isolated phenomenon among Maken supporters.

One of their typical tatics seems to be to first offer a counter response to any criticsm of Maken. Then, however, when the critiquer offers a response to their response, they accuse him of having a bad tone and proceed to empty both barrels on him (the implication being that disagreement with Maken must be caused by some underhanded motivation.)

What is it about Maken and her supporters that they seem incapable of engaging in good faith debate about her position? They don't seem to realize that they are the biggest argument against her position anyone could possibly need.

7/12/06, 4:24 AM  
Anonymous Alex Chediak said...

When are you guys going to critique my book? I feel slighted....

7/13/06, 12:12 AM  
Blogger Anakin Niceguy said...

Alex Chediak said...

When are you guys going to critique my book? I feel slighted....


Alex (if that is indeed truly you),

I would be honored to review your book, though I cannot guarantee that I will have the opportunity to do so. At any rate, why wait for me to review your book when you can engage me in a dialogue on our respective blogs as it is?

My stance is as follows: God does not mandate that most people get married. The choice of marriage/singles, per se, is just that: a choice. The attempt of some like Maken and others to impose marriage on single people is legislating where the Bible does not.

Really, Mr. Chediak, if marriage was such a no-brainer, why would the pundits have to shame us singles (especially men) into the institution?

7/16/06, 12:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anakin:
"I am afraid you overlooked a point I made. Again, what was under consideration? Indeed, what was GIVEN? "Temperament" as you say? No, that's not what the text says. It was a "saying".

Me:
If just the "saying" is what is given (rather than the saying AND the will/conviction/disposition to accept it), then the passage disintegrates. A mere saying is given to someone when it is simply spoken to them. By this logic, those who can't accept it just haven't heard it yet. And everyone whose heard it can accept it
Anakin:
What saying? "It is NOT GOOD to be married."
That it's bad for you to get married, period? I can't." "Marriage may be good for me and singleness may be good for me.
Me:
The saying is "It is better not to marry".And it's about what other people think is better for other people? You mean that God wants some people to believe it is better for me to be married, and he others to believe that it is better not to marry? God is not the author of confusion.
You can't accept it? But that saying was GIVEN to you. It's right there in your Bible.

Anakin:

"Don't want = Cannot? I am not sure I follow your reasoning."

Me:
Not sure where you got this equivocation. But let's go forward to your ice cream example. You have no choice over your preference for Heavenly Hash. Likewise, you cannot choose to have power over your will. You do or you don't. Likewise, how can you say "I'll choose to have no necessity (or compulsion, contstraint as alternate translations might put it) to get married?" Or, "I'm going to choose to need to get married?" Those are self-refuting phrases. To say "I've decided to have power over my will" is also a self-contradiction. Maybe if the text said "He who chooses to use his power over his will", then you'd have a case. But you don't.
Anakin:
"Simply put, my position is this: if you want to get married, go ahead. If you want to stay single, go ahead."
Me:
Good, we're getting on the same page.
Anakin:
Do you want me to just say, "What you want is required and what you don't want is forbidden?"
Me:
Admittedly, the Bible doesn't use as strong as language, but doing what we want in this regard is what we SHOULD do.
Anakin:
"So, if I go to an ice cream shop and I wanted Heavenly Hash, but they only had Pistachio - would it be sinful for me to choose Pistachio? Was the desire I had in my heart for Heavenly Hash a divine mandate?"
Me:
If you're talking about ice cream flavors in a literal sense, the Bible doesn't address ice cream. My position doesn't require your extrapolation. If you're talking metaphorically, if you're not content with Pistachio, go to another ice cream store.
Anakin:
"People can live happy and fufilled lives without marriage. Otherwise, the Bible's promise to single people is false."
Me:
There can be joy in the midst of suffering, I agree. But why is it so hard to accept that it really is suffering for a lot of people? And why so hard to believe that it is happening unneccesarily, and that people are missing out on a more happy and fulfilling life?
Anakin:

"If a woman wants an excuse to be miserable while she is single, Debbie Maken's book will help her. "I am dissatisfied and it's not God's will that I be this way!' Meanwhile, the world marches on and she is no closer to that coveted wedding."
Me:
Of course she can. But this would be a grossly negligent reading of Maken's book (You would never be so careless as to come to that conclusion, would you?). The liberating thing that can be gathered about is that it's ok to make it a top priority, rather than what the "Be content" crowd says - "do nothing, bloom where you're planted, and if nothing happens, that's what God wanted for you.". This is at odds with all of Biblical and church history, until we "discovered" that they were all wrong and that this is how God really works. And it's gotten us absolutely nowhere. Maybe, just maybe, God in His sovereingty is allowing this generation to be mislead by bad teaching. And maybe, jsut maybe, it's for the purpose to teach future generations a lesson and they don't have to endure the same sorrow.
Anakin:
"Tell me, how does Mrs. Maken's book help those socially or physically undesirable singles whose chances for marriage are pretty much nil?"
Me:
It doesn't, but I think that's a broader topic in itself. If you're socially undesirable, well, those people need to be helped first so they are socially desireable. As far as physically undesireable, well, I know plenty of people I consider undesirable who are happily married. That's in the eye of the beholder. But most unattractive people could make themselves more attractive by taking better care of themselves, and that should be encouraged as well.

Anakin:

So Paul's statement about the "right to take a wife" was a mere formality said for the benefit of men?
Me:
Yes, because the passage isn't about him per se. It's about church leaders and what privledges the church should allow them. He doesn't actually propose that HE specifically would like to get married but the church won't let him.
Anakin:
"Paul REALLY didn't have that right?"
Me:
He had a right, but it wasn't what he SHOULD do. He could handle being single. That was best for the kingdom. It's better for him, it's not better for others. Shouldn't a Christian do what is best?
Anakin:
"And was he making a deal about sacrificing a right that really wasn't a sacrifice for him?" In short, was Paul just disingenious about it all?"
Me:
No, he just just speaking hypothetically, just as he does in 2 Thess. 3:7:9
"For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone's food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we did not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow."
He has a right, but he has a duty before God to do what's best for the kingdom because he CAN forgo marriagechoose to do otherwise for the benefit of the kingdom (as all believers should do).
Anakin:
"I'm sorry but your explanation is untenable."
Me:
It handles both texts without doing violence to either one. Your

Anakin:
"The constant references to sexual relations are with respect to the questions the Corinthians had about themselves. Paul does not spend the entire chapter talking about himself, and his reference to his own condition is a side note in his discourse"
Me:
No, he is saying that they are not like he is. He is using himself as a point of comparison.

Anakin:

"What are you saying? That a 16 year-old male has more control than a 35 year-old male? A man's sexual prime is age 18 to 21 (the age when church leaders are telling them that they are too young to marry and that they need to take cold showers). If biology is destiny, then teenaged Christian boys need to be getting married before they graduate from high school."
Me:
I'm saying that it's easier for a 16 year old to remain pure until he's 23 than it is for a 16 year old to remain pure until he's 35. The longer you go on, the more risk of exposure there is. I'm saying that the wear from fighting it for 7 or so years is a lot less stressful than fighting it for 19. It's not like the struggle from age 23 just goes away when you turn 24 and you only have to deal with the sex drive of that year. You just get really, really, sick of being sexually frustrated year after year after year. How is that healthy? What is good about that?
Some people will inevitably fall until they're really ready for marriage. That's always been true. But we're prolonging the risk unneccessarily.

Anakin:
All is not equal here. Let me point out the following ...

Married people have an obligation to a spouse. That's why Paul said abstinence had to be by "mutual consent." If one is used to getting sex from the persons he lives with day in and day out and it is suddenly shut off, I suspect that is much more difficult than what a single person experiences. Do you think you would have an easier time being pure living in close proximity with a spouse that won't have sex with you? I don't.

Me:
More difficult? Perhaps - I wouldn't know. You wouldn't know either. It's a bald assertion. But why does it have to be equal? It doesn't change the fact that complete abstinence for decades is a lot more stressful and unhealthy than the "be content" crowd wants to admit. 1 Tim. 5:11 talks about young widows being overwhelmed by their sensuous desires. Why is it so hard to believe that many single people who are virgins feel overwhelmed by their desires as well?

Anakin:
The question of masturbation is moot. If you think touching yourself is a sin but there is no spouse in sight, guess what you are going to have to do (if you want to be consistent with your beliefs)? Go without sexual release.
Me:
But why not go to the different ice cream store, so to speak, and do your best to shorten the amount of time that you have to endure it?
Anakin:
"You have more control over your members than you do over your marital status."
Me:
To the extent that it's true, I would suggest it's because of the barriers that the church has put up. It wasn't true historically. But we have bad teaching in the church. Like do nothing - God will drop it in your lap. Like God will bring you the perfect person in His time (taken by some to make a list of requirements a mile long and expect God to bring them someone with every last requirement met.) We've also inherited some of the dysfunction of our society - people too afraid of commitment, people wanting to stay single for stricly materialistic reasons. Historically, societies had channels/networks to help people who wanted spouses to find them. For example, I lived in a city with a strong Armenian community. They still have that in place. So while a person in a city of say, 500,000 people may have at least 1,000 single Christians of the opposite sex in his/her age range around them spread out among 400 or so different chuches. So if it doesn't work with the 2-3 people who are in your church, you need to wait until someone else becomes dissatisfied with their church and happens to walk into yours (Of course, that person isn't supposed to go to another church hoping to find someone, because that's idolotry). Singles ministries? Well, we don't want them to be meat markets or dating clubs. But where, then does this whole issue gets addressed? The internet or no where. The internet is becoming a place for that, and it may eventually be a place where nearly everybody feels safe trying something like that (or feels like it isn't violating God's supposed command to do nothing), but that's a long, long way off.
Anakin:
"Debbie Maken seems to suggest the opposite, and I find that utterly absurd (as if my ability to be faithful to God depended on a woman agreeing to marry me). The Bible says I am to "work out MY OWN salvation" but Mrs. Maken would place my spiritual walk in the hands of the opposite sex."
Me:
Of course we are responsibile for our own sin. But we can make it more difficult for each other. For example, women dressing provacatively may make certain men stumble. It's their fault, but the woman shares the blame. Likewise if a married person refuses sex with their spouse and that person has an affair, the wronged person is still guilty of adultery, but the other spouse did contribute to it. Likewise, the structure and attitudes in some quarters of the church are dysfunctional.
Anakin:
"You misunderstand me. Older singles do not HAVE to get married. However, it is BETTER for either teenagers OR older singles to get married than to commit fornication (1 Cor. 7:9). There is no pretzel logic here.
Me:
But why do we have to wait until they actually do it before we say "You should get married?" Why not try to be preventative instead?
Anakin:

"I have not called Mrs. Maken nor you derogatory names. My comments have been deleted on pro-Maken boards for much less (I suspect it is my offense of disagreeing with the party line). Take that as a warning. Moderate your tone if you wish to continue to enjoy the privilege of posting here."
Me:
I will do so. However, it was a cheap and dissmissive attempt at marginalizing a very serious argument. The motivation behind this is usually to prejudice people against giving someone a fair hearing (evolutionists are particularly fond of doing this) and that I find irresponsible.

7/17/06, 7:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although I have been posting here under anonymous, it's me: gortexgrrl, just so there's no confusion.

Boy, was this ever a sight for sore eyes:
"Anakin: Simply put, my position is this: if you want to get married, go ahead. If you want to stay single, go ahead."
"Me: Good, we're getting on the same page."

Perhaps we all agree that marriage and singleness is a PERSONAL CHOICE that God leaves up to us, but where we differ is that some of us (anakin, it sounds) have suffered from church teachings that treat marriage as mandatory and others (anonymous and myself) have suffered from teachings along the lines of "it's better to not marry (actually it's 'remain as you are...for the sake of the 'present distress'" (and other 1Cor7 twists, like the erroneous "gift of singleness").

Both of these extremes come from exaggerated biblical interpretations and it only goes to show that when scripture gets distorted, people get hurt.

Anon, I really think you're onto something when you say "Maybe, just maybe, God in His sovereingty is allowing this generation to be mislead by bad teaching." It really is all about bad teaching. For the past couple of years, I have been all over the internet ranting about this issue, like a lone voice crying in the wilderness-- please check out my Amazon reviews...I think you'll find a lot of validation! It's incredible that it's taken us about three decades to open our eyes and see the damage done to those of us who were basically taught that we should just do the Lord's work and not care if we marry or if we don't, as if it will "just happen" by God's providence-- or not, in which case, just be content.

Perhaps you didn't have that experience Anakin (the opposite, it seems), but in case you think we're just blowing it out of proportion, go to the blog of "philosophical pastor", who pompously declares "I, personally, have found no advantage in maintaining an “I want to get married so I’m going to take a pro-active approach” attitude. Historically, this just gets me into situations that draw me away from Christ, as though going about my everyday in obedience were somehow in conflict with a desire to be married and therefore I must change, somehow, my everyday activities toward the goal to obtain something I do not currently have and think I should have. It has become therefore my conviction that God is quite capable of moving people into places whereby they will meet the right spouse, simply by carrying on in the activities God places in front of them."

...or check out my Amazon review of the book "Choosing God's Best", written by Don Raunikar who says "Before you can determine whom to marry, you must first answer a preliminary question: Does God want you to marry anyone, ever? Or is His plan for you to remain single?".

This is nothing less than SPIRITUAL ABUSE that results in sad stories like this one I read on another blog:

"I've been wanting to be married – badly – for the best part of 20 years. As a young man, I decided that it was more important to be the right man, than to go seeking the right woman. Believing that it was imperative to seek God's will for my life, I made Him a promise that I would not seek to build a relationship with any woman unless I first understood that this was what he wanted me to do. Whether or not this was a wise promise to make.. I'm no longer sure.
What remains is the conviction that a promise to God is not something that I can break."

ARE THE CHAINS OF BONDAGE NOT RATTLING LOUD ENOUGH, ALREADY??!!!I'm sick to death of seeing this go on and on, with the excruciatingly patronizing Christian singleness bookwriters rolling in their royalties as they dish out bad advice, all touting "the gift of singleness" (which I refute in my reviews of their books on Amazon).

Personally, I don't like the way Maken trashes men (especially pizza delivery guys!) and prooftexts her way through the bible. But I have been holding my nose and cheering for her, because she's the only one so far who has had the guts to take on these bad teachings, as she does in Chapter 2 of her book. So anakin, I do hope you will be fair and provide some balance to your argument by validating some of what she has to say about the problematic teachings addressed by her (and anon and myself). It can only strengthen your position. If you take Maken to task for prooftexting her position that marriage is mandatory, doesn't it stand to reason that it's also prooftexting to say that the pro-gift of singleness pundits are also guilty of prooftexting?

If we can humble ourselves in the service of scriptural integrity, God might then use us to help pave the way towards an enlightened centre on this issue! (hey, it's summer: you guys lay the rebar and asphalt on this highway, and I'll be the flag girl!)

7/19/06, 6:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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»

7/19/06, 6:45 PM  
Blogger Anakin Niceguy said...

Anonymous (who is advised to use a handle/nickname by which others can easily identify who is saying what) and Gortexgrrl,

Perhaps your main concern is the church patting you on the head and saying, "Grin and bear it. Perhaps God wants you to be single."

I understand your frustration. It's not easy for men either, Gortexgrrl. There are so many social barriers to dating. One major problem I see is that some religious leaders are caught up in the Guilt Industry where they peddle their new-fangled rules and solutions, and micromanage our lives. On one hand, we have authors sneering at young people who want to get married, telling them "to learn contentment and stop coveting marriage." Now, we have Maken and others telling single men like me that we are a bunch of spiritual losers because life didn't pan out for us the way we thought it would. Enough of this dogmatism; Christ call us to be free. His commands are a sufficient yoke. I don't need another set of rules, courtesy of the Family Bookstore. At any rate, perhaps I need to make my views clearer on this point for those who have been burned one way or the other.

7/19/06, 8:20 PM  
Blogger gortexgrrl said...

Anakin,

You are so right about the "guilt industry"!!! It really sucks, all the way around. And I do see that it's not easy for men, who bear the burden of rejection along with the perogative of pursuit. Although I do wish that you'd acknowledge that it's also difficult for women: consider the man shortage and how that forces women to consider whether or not they should lower their standards and try to make it work with someone they're not attracted to. Just imagine being kissed by someone you're not attracted to!!

Being judged by Maken for being "a bunch of spiritual losers because life didn't pan out for us the way we thought it would", I think what she's trying to say is that people need to be held more accountable, rather than having the outcome be all about "God's will" or calling, which is creates, I think, far worse implications for judgement, as if God didn't see you fit to grant you the favor of a spouse.

And I do think generational sin is a valid concern. Even if some people like Josh are rightly celibate and single, what about the consequences for our society when mass numbers of people fail to marry and produce the next generation of believers?

7/20/06, 6:47 PM  
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7/20/06, 9:02 PM  
Anonymous r. deckard said...

gortexgrrl,

You said: what about the consequences for our society when mass numbers of people fail to marry and produce the next generation of believers?


I confess I find this line of argument unconvincing. It assumes that the mission of the church is to primarily be concerned about sustaining or saving our current society and I think that is a questionable assumption. Some would say that the primary mission of the church is to embody and bear witness to the gospel of Christ through it's corporate life, not to perpetuate the social status-quo. As such, one of the reasons the New Testament recognizes singleness as a valid option for those who choose it, is precisely the fact that the existence of the church and its mission radically relativizes all other socio-political commitments.

As Laura Smit points out, "The early believers had all things in common and lived a common life, which, in the Old Testament, would have been characteristic of biologically defined family groups (Acts 2:42-47) In the New Testament, biology is transcended. The new community of the church is not meant to be replenished primarily by childbirth but by evangelism . . ."

Likewise, the theologian Stanley Hauerwas (who is a strong advocate of Christian marriage and child-rearing) has pointed out that one of the reasons the church recognizes singleness as a valid option for its members is that it reminds us that our survival is ultimately dependent on God and not on us, and that "God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones." (Matt 3:9)

The issue of generational sin is irrelevant to the issues of marriage and singleness per se. It is only relevant in as much as many single people of this generation may be living selfish, immature lives, not because they are single, but because they are not submitted to Christ or seeking to serve his kingdom with their lives. The same could no doubt be said of many married people.

7/21/06, 7:20 PM  
Blogger gortexgrrl said...

r.deckard,

Your quotations from Laura Smits and Stanley Hauerwas only serve to reinforce the point that we've got some very widespread twisted thinking about the importance of families in Christian circles.

There is nothing in the New Testament that even remotely suggests that "biology is transcended" for those mortals of God on this earth or that "the new community of the church is not meant to be replenished primarily by childbirth but by evangelism".

On that latter point, of course, it is both childbirth AND evangelism. Without bodies, there by conversion and born into the church, THE CHURCH HAS NO CORPORATE LIFE! (btw- the root of corporate means "body").

And as for "God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones", that is just magical thinking. You could say the same thing about making bread from stones or any other kind of food, God would still let you starve if you didn't sow the wheat! He has no obligation to spare our generation the long term natural consequences of not doing the obvious.

And as far as the generational sin of "many single people of this generation may be living selfish, immature lives, not because they are single, but because they are not submitted to Christ or seeking to serve his kingdom with their lives." Sorry, but this one's a chicken and egg: most of those people would be more supported in submission and service with the covering of marriage.

And no, I'm not saying that a married person is a better person or Christian: I'm saying that where you have large numbers of single people, you have more problems related to singleness, including addiction and crime, particularly in men. It's not about maintaining some bourgeous status quo, it's about dealing with NATURE.

Yes, there are some people for whom celibate singleness is a better choice than marriage and those people shouldn't be shamed or pressured into marriage. But at some level, we've got to tolerate at least SOME societal expectations about getting married, as do young people from almost every other culture on this planet. Why should we be any different? Is because, in our gentrified, economically privileged society, we still retain vestiges of our old colonial mentality, presuming that if we don't have families to care for us in our old age, we can import boatloads of poor immigrants to come over to clean our bedpans and wipe the drool off our chins for minimum wage while we're warehoused in big box nursing homes?

7/21/06, 9:55 PM  
Anonymous r. deckard said...

gortexgrrl,

I think you missed my point (as well as the points of Smit and Hauerwas) completely. Perhaps I wasn't clear enough.

Neither myself, nor Smit, nor Hauerwas denies the importance of families for the life of the church (as I mentioned, Hauerwas is a huge advocate of Christian marriage and childrearing, and Smit clearly supports marriage as well) nor do they or I suggest that it is an either/or between marriage and evangelism. The points they make are theological and metaphorical.

Smit's point concerning the transcending of biology is not meant to deny the embodied nature of humanity or to suggest that individuals should no longer care about their bodies. The point is one concerning the primary paradigm for understanding the people of God. In the Old Covenant, the people of God were understood primarily in biological terms (i.e. Israel) and were sustained primarily through biological reproduction. In the New Covenant, the primary paradigm for understanding the people of God is no longer biological nor is it primarily defined in terms of the biological family. The church represents a different kind of family made up of all those who are born of God through Christ. Yes, families and child-rearing are still an important part of the life of the church, but they do not represent the primary paradigm whereby the church is understood.

As for Hauerwas, his point is also theological and metaphorical. He is not suggesting that God will magically replenish the population of the church. He is making the theological point that the church depends on God for her existence, not human efforts. The acceptance and presence of single people among the ranks of the church is an acceptance of and reminder to us that our ultimate dependence is on God for our existence, not on marriage, families, or any other human institution.

As for this comment: "most of those people would be more supported in submission and service with the covering of marriage." Sorry, but I simply disagree. I see no reason why anyone should accept this as an obviously true claim. It only flys among people who already accept the conclusion that marriage is necessary for adulthood. It is fully possible to be selfish and immature in a marriage, just as it is fully possible to be a mature, self-giving, single adult. There is no necessary connection between marriage and maturity.

Once again you state: "I'm saying that where you have large numbers of single people, you have more problems related to singleness, including addiction and crime, particularly in men. It's not about maintaining some bourgeous status quo, it's about dealing with NATURE."

Sorry, but I don't buy this either. The first part is practically a tautology. One could just as easily say somrthing like "Where you have large numbers of married people, you have more problems related to marriage." It's stating the obvious. And how about spousal abuse as an example of a problem specifically related to married people. Yet no one is suggesting that marriage is bad or necessarily leads spousal abuse. Why then should there be a necessary connection seen between singleness and certain sorts of problems?

I'm not sure what you mean by NATURE, but you seem to be implying some kind of biological determinism, which I also reject. One of the further points about the New Covenant transcending biology is the fact that as Christians, we have the Spirit of God in us and as such we are empowered to submit our bodies to God. I reject the notion that marriage and/or sex are necessary in the same way as food, water, and shelter.

Again you say: "Yes, there are some people for whom celibate singleness is a better choice than marriage and those people shouldn't be shamed or pressured into marriage." And yet this is exactly what Maken seems to be trying to do is to shame other people into getting married. Her standard for legitmate celibacy (only those called to some kind of extreme ministry that makes singleness impossible) is ridiculous and certainly isn't based on anything directly taught in scripture. In fact, her position is based on explaining away what seems to be the clear meaning of scripture.

Finally: But at some level, we've got to tolerate at least SOME societal expectations about getting married, as do young people from almost every other culture on this planet. Why should we be any different? Is because, in our gentrified, economically privileged society, we still retain vestiges of our old colonial mentality, presuming that if we don't have families to care for us in our old age, we can import boatloads of poor immigrants to come over to clean our bedpans and wipe the drool off our chins for minimum wage while we're warehoused in big box nursing homes?

Sorry, but this comes off as mostly a cheap-shot.

My concern here is not about what's good for the society, but about what's good for the church. What kind of place should the church be? I say it should be a place where a diverse community of people can come together seeking to live under the Lordship of Christ and to live out the gospel to the world around it. It's primary concern is not about what is good for society, but about what serves the ends of the kingdom of God. Frequently (perhaps usually) this will also be good for society, but we cannot just facilely assume that what is good for society should dictate the agenda for the church.

7/21/06, 11:35 PM  
Blogger gortexgrrl said...

"In the New Covenant, the primary paradigm for understanding the people of God is no longer biological nor is it primarily defined in terms of the biological family...families and child-rearing are still an important part of the life of the church, but they do not represent the primary paradigm whereby the church is understood." So you're are talking in "metaphorical" and "theological" terms...it really doesn't help your argument much, considering that we have a practical problem on our hands, that being protracted singleness and its related social ills (which you deny, despite tons of sociological research-- see George Gilder's book and the National Marriage Project stats) and birthrates too low to offset the aging population (which you take offense to the very mention of, even though it's a mathematical reality), and dwindling numbers of Christians in the western world, (specially when compared to Islamic countries!).

And to disagree with the comment: "most of those people would be more supported in submission and service with the covering of marriage." because "It only flys among people who already accept the conclusion that marriage is necessary for adulthood." Again, you seem to be taking this personally, as if I'm joining with the shaming Makens of the world as if to say that ALL single people are selfish and all married people are mature, when I'm talking about SOCIOLOGICAL research over MASS NUMBERS OF PEOPLE. Of course there are exceptions.

"It is fully possible to be selfish and immature in a marriage...There is no necessary connection between marriage and maturity." It's not about maturity. It's about containment. And I stand by my point about nature-- Christians do not "transcended nature" in this lifetime, that's why we have the cross. Trying to separate body and spirit is a platonic ideal that doesn't go very far in practice. We only find this out when we let go of the structures and institutions that have we previous taken for granted to keep those natural forces at bay, as we have in the past few decades, like a big, scary sociology experiment. In this regard, we should care about society and not take its protective traditions for granted. Besides, society does affects the church nowadays, probably a lot more than vice versa.

Look, I know that Maken has some pretty off the wall ideas and is guilty of some horrible prooftexting, especially with her criteria for celibate singleness. But all you're doing is combating dogmatism with dogmatism, as if she's got nothing worthwhile to say. Anyways, I could get into the research on widespread (not individual) singleness and its sociological consequences, but there's probably not much point, you don't seem to see it as a problem and you'll probably just give me the Bart Simpson "can't prove it" for every bit of research I give you. Whatever. I'm tired...I'm gonna hit the hay.

7/22/06, 2:34 AM  
Anonymous r. deckard said...

Goretexgrrl,

My guess is that were not as far aprat as we seem. I do understand the problem with the declining birth rate in the West and that it is serious (especially in Europe.) See George Weigel's "The Cube and The Cathedral" or Meic Pearse's "Why the Rest Hates the West," two excellent books I have read in the last couple years which make this point.

And yes, my problem with Maken does have a lot to do with not only her prooftexting and sloppy thinking, but with the vitirolic tone with which so much of her book is delivered. I guess I do take some of it personally, but more than that, I have deep concerns about the kind of places our churches will become if Maken's book is widely read and accepted. Many of us already feel that the church is a place that tends towards implicit hostility to single people, and now we have Maken coming along and basically saying that that hostility is good and should be made explicit. I think this will be destructive to the church and the lives of many single people in it.

I would say, in fact, that the problem with many churches today is that they don't function as organic communities. As a result, it is much more difficult for people to live in relationships of submission to one another within the context of the body of Christ. I think if the church functioned more like it should, it would be easier to confront those who are living selfishly, including many who should seek to get married, but are not doing so. This would be done, however, within the context of loving relationships among people who know each other and who seek to live out the Lordship of Christ together. Then the single-person who is avoiding marriage for all the wrong reasons could be confronted by people who know and love that person, and are able to speak into their life. It would not be some kind of imposed, mandatory rule which attempts to turn the church into a marriage mill and force all single people to feel they must be actively seeking marriage, or else they are somehow failing morally and spiritually.

Many of us have been trying for a long time to move in the direction of marriage and have simply not been blessed with success. It would be nice, if, on top of all the other heart-aches and struggles we have to go through in this area, we do not have to listen to someone who doesn't even know us or our story, tell us we are moral failures for not having gotten married yet.

Concerning the claims about sociological realities, I don't think that the church should be generally unconcerned about these realities, but I stand by the point that the churches primary calling is not to save society, but to be faithful to its own narrative and its own mission. Only when it first does that, can it then be the kind of place which impacts society for the good, not so much by seeking to remedy social ills, but by being what it is in and for the world.

Hauerwas makes the point that in order for marriages to be successful, we must first have the kind of narrative and be the kind of community that can sustain the hope necessary for bringing children into the world and raising them. This hope in the reality of the kingdom is the reason for Christian marriage and childrearing, not some fearful and desperate attempt to counter sociological trends in an attempt to save society.

Anyway, I've already spent too much time blogging about this, so this is my last entry. Whatever we disagree about we'll have to agree to disagree.

Peace

7/22/06, 6:32 AM  
Blogger Anakin Niceguy said...

R. Deckard,

I think you did a masterful job of articulating the concerns that I have. That modern churches rely on births and not evangelism to sustain their numbers should be regarded as scandalous. The New Testament stresses evangelism as the means by which the Kingdom grows; it is supposed to be the normative way for the Church.

Families do have a place in the Church. In fact, one of the qualifications for being an elder (also known as a pastor or bishop in the NT) is that he be married and have believing children. But I reject the sacrmental mentality that demands believers must be sanctified through this route. God is powerful enough to work through the free choices of his people. Maken's demagoguery notwithstanding, nobody is required to get married if they don't want to. In the Kigdom of God, marriage is not a vanity nor useless, but it isn't necessary either.

7/22/06, 10:31 AM  
Anonymous r. deckard said...

Anakin,

Thanks for the encouragement. I was wondering if I had expressed my view well enough, so it is good to know you understood and connected with what I said.

Concerning the issue of marriage being a qualification for eldership, (I assume you are refering to 1 Tim 3:2) that is not how I understand that passage of scripture. I understand it not to mean that a person must be married to be an elder, but that if he is married must be faithful and monogamous in order to qualify for the position of elder. The notes in my New Geneva Study Bible also affirm this view. they read as follows: "This difficult expression has been understood to prohibit polygamy, remarriage after a divorce, or marital infidelity. Given the widespread immorality in the Greco-Roman world, the last would seem to fit Paul's focus the best."

Peace

7/23/06, 4:51 PM  
Blogger gortexgrrl said...

Anakin and Deck (hmm...sounds like a boatbuilding company!):

You've both made good points about the primary mission of the church to be faithful to its own narrative, that being about evangelism, not child birth. But I would also say that it is equally scandalous that the church has been relying on evangelism for new members and treating with indifference the hopes for singles raised in the church who want to have marry and bring in the next generation (as evidenced by the "rogue doctrines" on singleness that have emerged over the past three decades that stress being divinely "led" to a spouse or resting in "contentment" ie. "Jesus will be your husband", instead of stressing the volition of the person and taking action, as did past generations of believers).

What's more, the early church could take it for granted that those who converted would indeed have families that would go on to further the kingdom, because at that point in history, children were an inevitable product of marriage-- they did not have the kind of contraceptive options people have today (the most profound determinant of our current low birthrates-- and its accompanying social phenomena, such as modern feminism).

Now, I'm not taking an anti-birth control (or anti-feminist) stance, or saying people should be pressured into having children. But again, we do need to be able to hear those who are speaking out about the consequences of this sociological phenomena.

Indeed, Maken's vitriolic, man bashing polemic is unacceptable. And I think the oppositional reactions to her work, as seen here, provide an excellent example of how her approach can end up polarizing people to the point where neither side can hear each other. And certainly there have been two extremes in the church, one that idolizes marriage and child-raising, and another that treats it like a frill. Although marriage may not be necessary for an individual to enter the Kingdom of God, that kingdom as we know it on earth needs families for its continuity.

7/24/06, 12:50 PM  
Anonymous r. deckard said...

Gortexgrrl,

Thanks for your willingness to listen and to dialogue. Perhaps I will continue the conversation sometime, but I just started a new job this week and have been busy every evening and I am just too tired to write anymore in depth for now.

I do think you would benefit and enjoy reading the things Stanley Hauerwas has to say about marriage and children and singleness, though. He discusses marriage, families, and child-rearing in his book "A Community of Character," and there are selections of his writings on both singleness and marriage (he pretty much always writes about them together) in "The Hauerwas Reader." The later is a rather hefty tome that can often be found in the church and theology section of many Borders bookstores.

Peace to you,
Gordon

7/25/06, 6:18 PM  

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